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Ones to Watch | By Sabrina Davis

Planet Smoothie Café
Planet Smoothie Cafe interior.

Raving Brands is preparing its Planet Smoothie concept for a second wave of aggressive growth. Although it was a late comer to the competitive smoothie segment, Planet Smoothie quickly proved itself a contender by growing rapidly during 1995 to 1999 from 19 to 100 stores, mainly in the Southeast.

Planet Smoothie and Raving Brands founder and CEO Martin Sprock planned for aggressive growth to continue into 2000 and beyond, but with the smoothie category largely saturated, expansion plateaued around 135 stores. Raving Brands turned its attention to launching other fast-growing concepts including Moe’s Southwest Grill in 2000, Mama Fu’s Asian House in 2003, and Doc Green’s Gourmet Salads in 2004. Raving Brands also acquired PJ’s Coffee in 2002.

Now, armed with new growth strategies, new menu items, and a new store design, Sprock and his team intend to double the chain’s size in two years. At the center of the expansion plan is the company’s new Planet Smoothie Café concept, which started as a test in 2005 but has been redesigned for expansion. The cafés feature sandwiches, wraps, and salads to complement the smoothies.

“We tried to transition to food items some years ago,” says chief development officer Chris Morocco. “We had some pre-made wraps but decided for us to maintain our brand promise, we had to create sandwiches onsite and fresh with quality ingredients and unique flavors, as we do with our smoothies. This is a great opportunity for us to extend the brand equity we have with smoothies to become more of a lifestyle brand.”

The Planet Smoothie Café concept is intended to strengthen sales throughout the day. And smoothie sales tend to be seasonal in northern states, Morocco says, so the cafés should help carry sales through the winter.

“Another reason for the new concept is real estate,” Morocco says. “Many times strip centers have more square footage available than we would need for a smoothie concept.” The cafés are 1,200 to 1,600 square feet, while the standard smoothie stores are 800 to 1,200 square feet. “We’re about to significantly increase revenue, so we’ll be able to afford the additional occupancy costs,” he says.

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